What Hardik at his best and his possible alternatives put on the table


At their best, few do what Hardik Pandya does. His gifts are rare and various, such as hitting the first ball he faces off the ground; how to set up a six-hit butchery, how to hit 85 mph on his first pitch; like sewing at this rate under favorable conditions. He can wear several outfits: the selfless sidekick and the one-tick-tock to Virat Kohli; that of the tie-end-up supporting act for Jasprit Bumrah, a bat-and-ball finisher. On joining surfaces, you can move the ball both ways; on slow decks, he unleashes his slower cuts and balls; it brings balance and ballast, but only when it’s at its best.

Pandya is like a multitasking lab-engineered specimen of a cricketer, but for a body that withers in the cauldron of international cricket. There could be more skilled players than him in individual facets. But as a healthy package, men like him are rare. Even more so for a country where versatile fast bowlers rarely sprout; even if they do, not with a similar pedigree as Pandya. It’s no wonder then that the coaches, captain, fans or whoever is closely monitoring Indian cricket is keeping tabs on him, even though he last played Test three years ago, and his appearances in cue ball cricket They are sporadic lately. Even in those games, he seemed like an impostor from his best years.

In his injury-free glory days, Pandya frequently influenced games. Among those who debuted after him, in 2016, no one managed to score runs with a strike rate of 116. Combined with an average of 32 for someone hitting at no. 6 or 7, in fact it was a real deal. In this period, only rohit sharma he has scored more sixes in the 50-plus game than him (54). Pandya wreaked sheer destruction on his last shots: the 76-ball 90 in Sydney, the 92 no-ball in Canberra, or the whirlwind 44-ball 63 against England in Puno. Those were shots that lend credence to the theory of picking him simply for his big-hitting prowess.

Before injuries blocked him, Pandya’s bowling was just as impressive. He primarily served as the third closer, operated in the kill and when the new ball was handed to him, he also regularly caught wickets. Like his 50+ debut in Dharamsala when he broke New Zealand’s highest order, or his saving spells during the 2017 Champions Trophy and in South Africa (2018). But a cameo bowler like he is now, devoid of the old pace and venom from him, he is no longer an automatic in the eleven or the team. So just as Pandya is on the lookout for her old self, so are the Selectors on a quest to find an alternative or replacement, maybe not her carbon copy, but at least someone who can fill the multiple roles she could. . Several of them could take on the role of Pandya with their sights set on the 2023 World Cup.

Like(?): Shardul Thakur

Thakur can hit, and in his current form, he plays better than Pandya. He may not have Pandya’s pace, but he is cunning, with the ability to produce the right ball at the right time. He has a whole palette of cue ball tricks to choose from, headlined by a knuckleball, and could make an impressive turnaround with the new ball, too. But in the 50-plus format, he’s primarily a bowler who can hit. In 10 innings, he has already hit half a century, is averaging 39.40 and scoring 127. But it is absurd to consider him a similar replacement for Pandya, for three reasons. A) He has never played under the all-rounder tag, which is a drag. B) Most of his careers have been in relatively pressure-free environments. Though helpful, his runs didn’t make much of a difference in the end. C) There was no pressure of expectations.

So one will have to wait until you replicate those efforts in a critical situation before a judgment can be made.

Batting issue: Washington Sundar

His utility on the ball, while different, is on par with the Pandya spike. He can take the new ball, pick wickets, apply the choke in intermissions and shoot in the last 10. He is also a dogged batsman, but the big question is whether he could orchestrate chaos like Pandya. Sundar’s strike rates in T20s (119) and List A (79) suggest that his approach is more orthodox than postmodern. But he is 22 years old, has a lot of potential and could become a hugely successful all-rounder in the mold of Pandya before the next World Cup.

Similar, not the same: Ravindra Jadeja

Whether Pandya plays or not, Jadeja is a guaranteed starter. With the ball, his role is different: he is a spinner and primarily a second-hand merchant. Like Pandya, he can spin freely, but not from the one ball. These days, he takes his time before teeing off. He has sacrificed part of his career in pursuit of him transforming into a Test-match all-rounder. In recent outings in cricket over 50 years old, Jadeja reignited an old company, but can he consistently stir up so much fury? Also, the general sentiment is that one needs two late-order finishers/explosive hitters on a team.

A matter of bowling: deepak hooda

Hooda hit the right notes in his debut on Sunday, showing maturity under pressure and posting an unbeaten 26. After an erratic phase, he has matured and appears equipped to deal with the quality at international level, but the big question is whether he can bowl. A skillful spinner, a regular in the Indian Premier League, after his action was cleared a few years ago, much depended on whether he could regularly contribute some stingy overs. India already has too many non-bowling batsmen. Plus, he has yet to replicate his big-hitting skills internationally. ODIs, compared to IPLs, are a different pot of fish.

The Outsider: Shahrukh Khan

The 26-year-old from Chennai could be destructive with the bat and is quite consistent in this format (List A), but international cricket is a step up. The bowlers he meets would be faster and smarter. It also hasn’t had much of an impact on the IPL. Also, the overall potential of him is limited and he is rarely called up in domestic cricket. But if the selectors are looking for someone who can go crazy without worrying, he’s an option. Although he needs fixing.

None of these five names, or the remembered Rishi Dhawan or the snubbed vijay shankar, they are like Pandya. But until Pandya starts doing what she does, the search for a blockbuster off-roader would be on.


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